A man has been freed from a six-foot shed where it is believed he has been held for the last 40 years in Cumbria, a town in England. It is suspected that he was locked into the tiny room when he was just 18 years old in 1978.
When he was discovered he was said to have looked like a ‘rabbit in the headlights’ because he was so startled to be freed.
Pictures from the scene show a filthy blanket on the floor next to a flat-screen TV and a garden chair. There is also a piece of raggedy old carpet and an electric heater that doesn’t work inside the green shed.
The man, who is now 58, is being cared for by officials from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority who acted on a tip-off. He is being looked after by specialist trauma officers who are carrying out medical examinations and assessing his mental health.
The man was found at a residential site near Carlisle, Cumbria, in a dawn raid yesterday morning.
Martin Plimmer from the GLAA said: ‘The information that was given to us was that he had been kept in the shed for a period of 40 years. When we found him he was like a rabbit in headlights and very confused.
‘He was just in the clothes he stood up in and where he was sleeping in the shed there was just a soiled duvet on the floor.
‘There was no heating and it was very cold. It was conditions that no human being should live in.’
Mr Plimmer said the man appeared to have been made to carry out unpaid work from the age of 16 or 17. He said it was unclear whether the man had ever tried to leave.
‘He has been traumatised for such a length of time that it will be a slow process to win back his trust.
‘In my long career I’ve never come across anyone who has been held as a slave potentially for 40 years.
‘This, I think, could be the longest period of captivity that we have dealt with. It’s an extremely sad and serious case.’
The raid resulted from a call to a confidential helpline, Mr Plimmer said. A 79-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of modern slavery offences.
In a statement, GLAA added: ‘The operation has been supported by specialist officers from the National Crime Agency, the Cumbria Housing Department who are investigating possible health and safety breaches, and officers from Cumbria Police.
‘Modern slavery exists in a whole range of forms across the UK. If you suspect someone is being exploited or abused, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us.
‘Your call could be the difference between exploitation continuing and worsening or a victim being rescued and given the support that they desperately need.’